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All you need is love? Not quite...

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TO VINCENTS WANTS TO SEA

VINCENT WILL MEER (Vincent wants to Sea)

DIRECTOR: Ralph Heuttner

CAST: Caroline Herfurth, Johannes Allmayer, Katharina Mueller-Elmau

RATING: ***

VINCENT Wants to Sea begins with a setup that sounds like the world’s lamest and least-sensitive joke. Its protagonists are an anorexic, an obsessive-compulsive and a Tourette’s sufferer.

But instead of walking into a bar, the opening of the film has them jumping into a car – stolen from a therapist at their residential treatment facility – and setting off on an antic filled road trip across Europe. There’s lots of opportunity for laughs related to food consumption (or its lack), crumbs in the back seat and inappropriate cursing in public. Initially at least, this odd and ultimately winning film from German director Ralf Huettner doesn’t miss a single cheap shot. The three young main characters – Marie the anorexic (Karoline Herfurth), germaphobe Alex (Johannes Allmayer) and the tic-plagued title character (Florian David Fitz, who also wrote the script) – are presented as little more than caricatures defined by their disorders. They’re cute and cuddly, and only a little bit wacky.

It’s okay to laugh at them, the film suggests, because they’re all snickering at one another, too. “You’re crazy,” Marie tells Alex, in one of many instances of uncomfortable irony.

Fortunately, the awkward comic spirit eventually subsides, as does the sense that you’ve heard this story, or its moral, before: We’re all broken in some way, love heals all wounds or some such thing. Predictability gives way to touching drama.

Not that the movie is entirely cliche-free. In pursuit of the fugitives is the therapist (Katharina Mueller-Elmau), a chain smoker who once had an eating disorder herself. She’s accompanied by Vincent’s father (Heino Ferch), an image-conscious and emotionally withholding politician. Brace yourself for the inevitable father-son reconciliation scene. The road trip is precipitated by Vincent’s desire to scatter his late mother’s ashes in the ocean, and each man blames the other for her alcohol-related death.

As for the budding sexual attraction between Vincent and Marie, at times it veers dangerously close to romanticising illness.

In the end, the movie steers clear of the worst cliches. A surprising little scene shows Vincent and Marie spooning in a motel bed one night, as Alex lies sleepless next to them. Without saying a word, Vincent turns to him and gently takes his hand in a wordless gesture of tenderness.

More than anything, the movie is built around such quirky scenes, made believable by strong perform-ances from its charming and talented young cast.

Marie, Alex and Vincent come across as both vulnerable and resilient, and far more complex than first portrayed. What could have easily become a trite tale of damaged people struggling to save one another is redeemed by their discovery that they can’t. Love, in other words, has limitations.

That lesson, of course, is nothing new. What makes a deeper and more lasting impression is how badly they want to save one another, and that it’s the wanting that matters more than the saving. – Washington Post


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